An intriguing bag is about to be sent to a Turku-based day care centre. Containing a selection exciting equipment, it bulges with safety glasses, test tubes, pipettes, measuring instruments and shaving foam.
Riikka Vuorinen, City of Turku Project Coordinator for Early Childhood Education, explains that the bag is part of the new Science Bag pilot, the goal of which is to enable children and adults at day care centres to explore nature and conduct experiments together.
“One of the example tasks provides instructions on how to make a rainbow using water, sugar and food colourings. At the same time, it teaches that fluids have different densities.”
Turku is the first city in Finland to register science education in its early childhood education and care curriculum.
“Children are naturally curious and intrigued by various phenomena. They perceive and observe the world in a fresh way that enables a natural relationship with technology and science. Our aim is to ensure that this relationship lasts throughout life,” says Vuorinen.
Children are naturally curious and intrigued by various phenomena. They perceive and observe the world in a fresh way that enables a natural relationship with technology and science.
New cooperation models
Providing day care centres with science bags is just one example of the extensive STEAM Turku entity.
Matti Mäkelä, Project Manager at City of Turku Education Division, explains that one of STEAM Turku’s objectives is to create a new educational operating model to increase the attractiveness of science and technology.
“The model extends from early childhood education and care to basic and upper secondary education. It creates new channels to secondary level studies and especially to the Technology Campus of Turku’s four higher education institutions. We are also building new forms of cooperation between the Education Division and the higher education institutions, companies and other actors in the region.”
The aim of the model is to ensure that successful technology companies in Turku and Southwest Finland will have skilled workforce in the future.
Turku is known for its thriving maritime industry and pharmaceutical development, but the region also hosts noteworthy operators in the automotive and battery industries.
Augmented reality adventures for school classes
STEAM Turku develops new digital solutions, teaching content, learning materials and learning environments.
“Turku has introduced a new augmented reality learning application whose 3D models were created by Turku’s upper secondary school and higher education students. Using the application, students get exercise while exploring virtual sites in the Aurajoki riverside. Along the river, students can familiarise themselves with Turku’s first car or a medieval Hanseatic cog ship, for example.”
In addition, STEAM Turku’s adventures explore the links between science, technology and art:
“Upper secondary school students of Katedralskolan wrote and partly composed a musical which was recorded by music technology students at the Turku Conservatory of Music. The cooperation was supported by Åbo Svenska Teater, the Swedish-speaking theatre in Turku”, says Mäkelä.
Information on work and studies
Mäkelä highlights Finland’s only working life lectureship as one of the new operating models.
“The working life lecturer visits schools to increase young people’s awareness on occupations and companies in the technology sector and the competence required by them. Above all, the idea is to inspire enthusiasm towards technology.”
In Turku, it is possible to take whole new kind of upper secondary school courses where students learn about marine physics or the various uses of nanocellulose.
“Upper secondary school students have also had the opportunity to participate in lectures at the University of Turku and Turku University of Applied Sciences. In addition, higher education students have visited upper secondary schools to talk about their studies.”
Inclusion means that every pupil, student and teacher can find their own path to the world of science. Openness manifests in distributing all information and practices, allowing everyone to participate in cooperative activities and being ready to learn from others.
Increasing demand for science and technology
The idea of STEAM Turku is to inspire, explore and learn – even from failures.
Mäkelä notes that the education model also emphasises inclusion and openness:
“Inclusion means that every pupil, student and teacher can find their own path to the world of science. Openness manifests in distributing all information and practices, allowing everyone to participate in cooperative activities and being ready to learn from others.”
Turku invests in science and technology for reasons other than industrial policy:
“Today, there is an increasing need for scientists and technology experts to solve larger global problems such as climate change,” Mäkelä points out.
Turku and the pharmaceutical company Bayer have jointly organised the large Beyond 2030 science competition for secondary level students in Southwest Finland. This year, it will expand to a national scale.
The competition challenges students work with self-selected research projects to design creative solutions that increase the sustainability of Southwest Finland and the entire world now and in the future. The ideas my relate to, for example, climate change, sustainable development, the circular economy, social environment, welfare technology or reducing poverty and illnesses.
The STEAM Turku education model will be presented in St. Petersburg at the Union of the Baltic Cities General Conference on 28 October 2021.
Text: Matti Välimäki